[eDebate] A proposal for alternative agents
Mckown, Robert J.
Fri Apr 14 16:52:03 CDT 2006
I dont get into these very often either-- and I am a bit out of the loop
these days on a host of current issues. I dont want to comment on all
the other stuff--
However, as for the narrow question of "when agent-oriented counterplans
came into fashion in debate" -- I might offer some historical
However, before getting to that-- a point of clarification-- whereas
counterplans had long been in debate, and many times had included agents
for the purpose of specificity, I am assuming that the "agent oriented"
counterplans you are referring to are those that are strategically used
to shift the debate solely to the agent-- as you put it:
" it seems to me that a lot of negatives do not really work on a case
debate, nor do they focus on plan mechanisms all that much but that many
of the links to DA's and competition for counterplans stem from the
I think I am right about this.. not sure if it is still true in debate,
but it was a pervasive strategy years ago when cave dwellers like me
were flowing on slate tablets..
After reading your post, I thought about it-- and I as I remember, these
really came to a head in the mid 90's-- mostly in the years right before
the "merge" between CEDA and NDT (which was not a singular moment but a
number of events) and, as someone who was on one of only a handful of
squads that did both regularly, I believe it was mostly, at first at
least, an NDT trend
in retrospect there might be some reasons for this..
1st-- 2 back to back NDT topics that made it relevant
Perhaps the single most important factor was the 93/94 NDT topic --
"That the Commander-in-Chief power of the President of the United States
should be substantially curtailed"-- those of you who debated this one
might want to weigh in on this-- but it was at its core a big time agent
debate topic-- like none you have ever seen. This is odd given that
there was no agent listed.. The reason was that it mandated a shift in
power between agents as an explicit outcome in the topic-- so you really
did have to say how that happened in the 1ac-- no getting around it--
core of the topic..
thus the very net benefits to the CP were central to the debate. If the
plan was to have the Court rule that the President must release
prisoners at Gitmo, then the CP was just to have the prez do it and
focus the debate back on separation of powers-- now those "purists" ate
that shit up because it meant that the agent debate was actually (in
this one instance) focusing the debate back to the core matter in the
topic, instead of away from it..
but this devolved (or evolved if you wish) quite rapidly.. if some of
you may remember (and I will credit Skiermont on this I think) we
debated rounds where if we had the congress do the plan then the CP
would have the congress do the plan, the president veto it, the congress
over-rule the veto.. and claim some odd net benefit of prez power (oh
and some Clinton to boot, but we are getting there-- just hang on)--
there was a ton of these types of CP's floating around (though that was
an extreme example) .. you would find all kinds of agents and
permutations of agents and that was where a lot of the debate was at..
then came the ever-so -fun 94/95 topic "That the federal government
should substantially change rules and/or statues governing criminal
procedure in federal courts in one or more of the following areas:
pretrial detention, sentencing." -- yum -- let me just mention the
sheer trauma reading those words once again has caused me... anyone who
thinks that was a great topic needs there head examined
you might be tempted to think "hey what about federalism"-- but since
it is only fed sentencing-- you can forget it-- once again, the negative
ground was itsy bitsy and relying on what they had done the previous
year in terms of blocks and ev, as well as the newfound willingness of
judges to go down that road-- a lot of folks went with agent cps-- so
you had more debates about courts versus congress, versus the
presidency-- dont get me wrong-- this was what some would call a very
"substantive" debate about the role of the courts versus the legislative
or executive branches in matters social justice.. but-- in 2 years the
agent CP had slipped as mainstream..
2nd-- the rise of the "Clinton" -- political capital disads had been
around in high school in the late 80's-- but they were crude to say the
least-- the 91/92 NDT topic on privacy and the courts didn't really push
this envelope much-- nor did the SE Asia topic the following year-- but
all of a sudden with Commander in chief in 93/94 you had an explosion--
now part of this was because of the fact that the topic made it a solid
integrated strategy-- instead of the congress forcing the prez to
release prisoners, the prez would just do it unilaterally-- 2 net
benefits-- separation of powers and also prez political capital -- the
former of the two was at the core of the topic area-- the latter may
have had a weak link, but it was a comparative link-- so given a wash--
you could claim why take the risk--
in a more nuanced since this decided a lot of debates-- the reason was
that there weren't a lot of cases were the "case debate" turned on "who"
did it-- in those instances where it made more sense to have the
congress clip the power of the prez to do it versus the prez
unilaterally doing it , there wasn't really any solvency debate to be
had--- it was only a SOP issue again-- if the aff said the prez
unilaterally doing it wouldn't meant it would actually get done (you
know-- covert stuff) -- then the neg would come back with some theory
gobbledy gook about fiot-- in the end that debate looped back into the
separation of powers debate-- which was itself long term, ambigous, and
often involved hypotheticals about things as silly as "liberty" and
however-- there was always that little net benefit risk of Clinton
laying out there for you...and in the words of Ice T: "on with the body
I saw many many debates that year where a 2nr would jettison the whole
separation of powers debate if possible and go straight for Clinton--
even if the link was weak, there was no real a solvency gap..
my favorite of these had to be the oddest version of the ole "focus"
DA--in 94/95-- I think I have some vague memory (we wont go into reasons
for its vagueness) of Mason Miller running this at Kentucky one
year--forgive me if I am wrong on this Mason (though asking masons for
forgiveness is something I dont think I have done before) basically it
"the prez is balanced, you distract him-- if it increases his
popularity thats bad-- if it decreases his popularity thats bad-- we
have the court do the plan-- and here are our brink cards from 10
minutes ago... "
at the same time-- and I have thought about this more in hindsight,
there were other events shaping the "political disad" -- 1994 (as many
of your remember) was a big year for the idea of "political capital" in
the media-- lots of agenda items for Clinton, some missteps, low
capital, and (as the midterms showed) a lot of real good brink cards--
couple this with a concurrent rise in political punditry as a result of
cable news expansion and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) -- the emergence of LEXIS as
a force in debate made these types of DA's (with cards 2 hours old on
Clintons polls numbers and coalitions of congresspersons who would vote
for certain bills) possible.
all of this fed the agent CP-- it was what we might call a "perfect
storm" for these claims
3rd-- THE "K"
okay-- say what you will -- but the "K" (whatever the hell that ever
meant) -- threw some teams for a loop---at first at least they flat out
rejected the form itself-- I wont name names-- but a lot of folks out
there still judging today would (back in 92/93) turn to Jon Sharpe and
say -- "hey this is only a damn nonunique disad-- im not going to vote
for this "cultural imperialism" crap.. get some real args "
but about this time folks starting thinking about the K on the aff-- the
agent CP was a way to get around this-- especially in the 94/95 topic --
teams who didn't want to debate the "K" would agent CP in an attempt to
avoid that debate completely.. yet this was minimal compared to #1, #2
now I mentioned this was an NDT thing more than CEDA-- I think this is
the case, though I could be wrong-- as someone who was on a squad that
did both, and occasionally myself did both, I got the impression that
agent CP's weren't quite as big there-- dont get me wrong-- CEDA had its
share of whacky CP's-- and disads as well (need I mention the most
badass spark and wipeout files I ever saw)-- but there wasn't as much of
I remember that Jarvis and I debated at the Heart one year (on the
oceans topic) and I busted out some Clinton junk-- and I think it seemed
alien to a lot of folks-- explaining the link itself (or it was just
because I was a terrible debater-- which is the most likely reason)
Though I remember judging Biza Repko at a CEDA tournie the next year and
she was mowing down folks like deer in headlights on a political DA--
What may have changed was the topics themselves-- in the years before
the merger, CEDA was drifting to what we might consider more "policy"
topics-- this drift took place over several years--- but as I remember
it, in the early 90's CEDA still had the topics that weren't explicitly
policy-- my favorite (and I dont know the exact wording) was resolved
"the news media has a negative effect on public knowledge" -- or
something like that .. you folks want to talk about how topics are
imagined-- ask folks around debating during those days-- and remember--
2 topics a year --- so I guess part of that might be that absent such
specificity in the resolution, CEDA didn't have the right conditions for
the growth of these CP's
okay-- enough decade old memories for now..
From: edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com
[mailto:edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com] On Behalf Of Brent Saindon
Sent: Friday, April 14, 2006 4:18 PM
Cc: edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: [eDebate] A proposal for alternative agents
I really do not like getting in to these discussions, but I had
a little time...
I find Gordie's post to be fairly provocative. I have always
found the change in topic wording to be fascinating, but I never
understood the rationale. Perhaps someone with a little more debate
history than myself would be willing to offer an explanation for some of
the significant resolutional mutations.
I also would be interested in knowing when agent-oriented
counterplans came into fashion in debate -- it seems to me that a lot of
negatives do not really work on a case debate, nor do they focus on plan
mechanisms all that much but that many of the links to DA's and
competition for counterplans stem from the agent.
Perhaps we should not just change the agent for a year. What if
you alowed multiple actors -- but still within limits. A lot of people
seemed to have trouble with Kuswa's proposal for a passive voice topic
because it allowed to many agents. What if we limited it to 3? or 5?
perhaps 7? Maybe we could even provide topic wordings with different
amounts of agents in each, and let the decison on the topic become not
just about how many topic areas we will allow, but also how many and
what type of agents to give the aff. This ould have some advantages
(though I will admit most of this is speculation).
1) It might be harder to go for an a-spec argument.
2) It might satisfy some of Jackie's concerns about switch-side
debate. Depending on how the community chose to word the resolution, and
given this community's general views on topical counterplans, nobody may
have to ever "negate" the resolution in a direct manner.
3) Could make for some interesting CP/DA strategies, one's that
might diversify types of politics scenarios (if that's your bag).
4) could create a lot more wiggle room for the Aff to answer
certain critiques (those also a possibility that it migh hurt on
I don't want to make this too long, but I had to share a thought
or two. Perhaps I am wrong about this, but the idea might still be
worthy of discussion...
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